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Luxman PD-350 & Ortofon MC-A90 Playing New Vinyl!

Told you I had a few holiday jobs to do. Well, I serviced my tonearm, reinstalled my retipped Ortofon MC-A90 moving coil cartridge and finally got to listen to it on my Luxman PD-350. THIS is why I love vinyl!

This was just one of many jobs to do, but playing into one of my Fidelity Research XF-1 step-up transformers (the XF-1L) and Cayin Phono 1 phono preamp, and spinning some lovely new, and some very old vinyl, the sound of this combo is simply sublime.

I had my Luxman PD-350 set up again, ready for my birthday family get-together a couple of days ago and we played a lot of records, including some of my Mum’s favourites from the 1950s. This has been my reference setup for a few years now so I’ve heard it before, but not since the retip together with the SUT and Cayin tube pre. My other reference is the even better Kenwood L-07D, but it’s currently out of action.

Just to be clear, I don’t just love the set-up process and tweaking. I much prefer when that’s all done and I can sit back and listen to records, but there’s something about all of that and getting everything just right that is immensely satisfying.

Luxman PD-350
Just look at this beauty! The Luxman PD-350 is a turntable of significance. The Koestu SA-1100D is an excellent sounding arm too.

I’m really enjoying the Abbey Road half-speed remastered 180g pressing of Simple Minds devastatingly impressive New Gold Dream I picked up a year or two ago. Bass on this record is phenomenal and the Luxman PD-350 + Ortofon MC-A90 combination delivers gravitational bottom-end depth and power, plus stunningly low distortion and phat analog goodness. Once you’ve heard sound this good, you can never go back.

The rest of the system helps of course, but you have to start with the highest resolution sources you can find. Do you like gravitational bass..? I love gravitational bass, whatever that is exactly. For me, it means feeling the attack of bass drum pedal beater on the drum head and, as a drummer, these details matter. I can also hear every nuance of Derek Forbes’ mind-blowing bass guitar masterclass on this record. Please get yourself a copy if you don’t have one and enjoy this kind of thing.

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OK, so it’s not all new vinyl. This early (probably 1961) pressing of Black Coffee by Peggy Lee is one of my Mum’s old records and one of my absolute best sounding discs. How’s all that new technology and remastered vinyl eh..?! This is phenomenal, at just 120grams and a mono recording. You’d swear she was in the room with you.
Ortofon MC-A90
The Ortofon MC-A90 is, without a doubt, a stunningly good cartridge. It’s easily the best I’ve owned and still the best I’ve heard. It’s mounted to a Fidelity Research RS-141 headshell, one of the very best headshells for heavier setups, where you aren’t counting the grams. Having some mass behind a cartridge like this really helps. Headshell wires are SME silver.

Another record I’m enjoying – no surprises here – is my white 180g 20th Anniversary Edition of Opeth’s epic Blackwater Park. I can’t easily explain how much I love this record so I won’t try. I can say that this stunning white pressing is as flat as glass, one of my flattest records, and sounds fantastic. Just beautiful.

Luxman PD-350
Stunning, flat twentieth-anniversary reissue of Blackwater Park. Wow.

One thing you might be seeing here is the combination of golden-age analog goodness, the best of the best, with a sprinkling of newer stuff. There’s art and science involved in getting all these elements playing well together but when you do, that’s synergy for real, and you hear it immediately. Yes, we are playing with some heavyweight gear here, no doubt about it, but ultimately it comes down to the enjoyment of vinyl.

Blackwater Park
HEAVYweight album, heavyweight white vinyl!

Now, if it wasn’t obvious from years of owning and writing about some of the best turntables and vinyl accessories ever made, I love using, servicing and setting up turntables for myself and my customers. They don’t have to be end game decks like this either. I’m just as happy setting up a Technics SL-23 as I am a Technics SP-10/SL-1000, like this one where I installed a stunning SME IV tonearm, armboard and Ortofon MC-A95 onto today for example:

Technics SP-10 SL-1000
Just look at this beautiful Technics SP-10, with newly mounted and serviced SME IV magnesium tonearm, and Ortofon MC-A95, two of the very best. If you want good sound, you really need a deck like this or the Luxman PD-350. Check out the cleaned and revamped work area too!

Thanks for stopping by and if you’d like me to bring a little zing to your vinyl playback system, don’t hesitate to let me know!

12 thoughts on “Luxman PD-350 & Ortofon MC-A90 Playing New Vinyl!”

  1. Hey Mike!
    As you know, we barely disagree about anything when it comes to audio, but, I’m gonna have to call this one.
    In a head to head I did on this title last year, the Half Speed was appreciably worse than the US original gold vinyl press.
    Link below.
    See what you think?
    Best

    Jon

    1. Hi Jon, all good and part of the joy of owning records! I have an original and the Abbey Road reissue and the half-speed version is the better of the two I have. I should mention though that my original also sounds phenomenal and there’s enough written about the sessions and production to cover why this record just sounds epic, full stop. There is always unit-to-unit variation and other factors at play though. Your original might have been a pearler or your half-speed a dud, it happens!

      1. Hi Mike, today’s vinyls, the so-called 180 gram reissues, don’t always sound like the originals. Lately I picked up a 12 inch Pink Floyd 45 and it sounds really good. Waters’ “AMUSED TO DEATH” sounds good too, but few modern records sound as good as they did a long time ago.
        Almost all records from the 80s sound sublime and the engineers put their name on it.
        I believe that today a lot of recording equipment is still vintage, but there are no longer the technicians of yore who knew their machines deeply. In fact, close to them they had gained years of experience recording thousands and thousands of vinyls.
        They knew how to make the best use of their tools, squeezing the best they could give from the equipment.
        I don’t like today’s engravings. They have less dynamics, so I always suspect that in the production chain of a vinyl, there is some transition to digital.
        What do you think about it?

        Italiano
        Ciao Mike, i vinili odierni, le cosidette ristampe su 180 grammi, non sempre suonano come gli originali. Ultimamente ho preso un 12 pollici a 45 giri dei Pink Floyd e suona davvero da Dio. Suona bene anche “AMUSED TO MORTE” di Waters, ma pochi dischi moderni suonano bene come quelli di tanto tempo fa.
        Quasi tutti i dischi degli anni 80 suonano sublimi ed i fonici ci mettevano sopra il proprio nome.
        Io credo che oggi molte attrezzature per incidere i dischi siano ancora vintage, ma non ci sono più i tecnici di un tempo che conoscevano profondamente le loro macchine. Vicino ad esse infatti avevano fatto anni di esperienza incidendo migliaia e migliaia di vinili.
        Sapevano usare al meglio i loro utensili, spremendo dalle attrezzature il meglio che potevano dare.
        A me le incisioni odierne non piacciono. Hanno meno dinamica, quindi ho sempre il sospetto che nella catena di produzione di un vinile, ci sia qualche passaggio in digitale.
        Che ne pensi?

        1. Hi Stefano, thanks for sharing your thoughts, I hope I’ve replied to the right comment as you sent the same one a few times. Yes, I agree entirely. As you know, with analog, closeness in time to the original recording is paramount. No amount of fancy remastering, heavy vinyl and good equipment can make up for the loss in quality over time of the original master tapes or whatever generation of submasters they are using for the release in question. I find many of today’s releases flat, dynamically dull and often too hot, causing distortion.

          I also have some Pink Floyd reissues and my Wish You Were Here reissues are phenomenal. Others like Zeppelin are quite ordinary. My friend has some very early Led Zeppelin and ELP and those pressings sound fantastic. My older records are often the best ones, especially the German and Japanese pressings. I agree in relation to the recording, mastering, mixing and record pressing equipment. Very few people know how to keep it running well and get the best out of it.

          1. On your advice I bought Peggy lee’s Black Coffee, first printing. Hope it arrives soon and is in excellent condition as the seller described it.

            Su tuo consiglio ho acquistato Black coffe di Peggy lee, prima stampa. Spero che arrivi presto e che sia in condizioni eccellenti come lo ha descritto il venditore.

  2. Sincere congratulations.
    Excellent audio reproduction chain.
    Vinyl can give a lot of dynamics, it is the best support for the sound.
    Analog is better

  3. Marius Rajanayagam

    Hello Mike
    A great article on listening to music. I always enjoy reading your reports and generally share your views. I too have a PD-350 which I bought new. It replaced a beautiful PD-441 which I often wish that I had kept. I would love to read your review of the PD-350 itself (when you get time to write about what you like about it). I think that you would write a much more interesting overview of the PD-350 than the already interesting Vintage Knob post.
    Best regards
    Marius
    P.S. Great to read your review of the Technics SL-23 which was so honest and refreshing. It walks all over those horrible Regas.

    1. Thanks Marius, much appreciated and so good to meet other PD-350 owners. I’ve worked on the PD-441, wow what a deck! I’ll review the PD-350 at some point for sure and yes, I couldn’t agree more about the SL-23. It’s just a shame more people don’t speak honestly about this stuff. Then again, I’m not a Rega retailer!

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