Vacuum-tube control amplifier of the Golden Age revived in modern times. The CL-38u has a high quality design of all stages SRPP circuit, a multi-function tone control, a phono stage of the highest quality. It is the vacuum tube control center for the listener who appreciates tonal color and wants to derive the maximum pleasure from his music playback system.

Luxman was founded in 1925 and has been designing and manufacturing vacuum tube amplifiers for almost nine decades. One such model was the CL-35 control amplifier in 1970, which ran through three iterations. This model is held in such high regard in vintage stereo equipment circles that a clean MK III example fetched $2,500 on eBay recently.

Housed in an attractive wooden cabinet the CL-38u employs 3 x ECC83 and 5 x ECC82 in classic SRPP (Shunt Regulated Push Pull) configuration throughout all gain stages for extremely low output impedance thereby achieving strong drivability to cope with the most awkward amplifier loads. The use of four moving-coil step-up transformers in the phono stage further enables quiet and accurate reproduction of music recorded onto the LP. The CL-38u is a full-function pre-amplifier built to fulfill Luxman’s design philosophy in the quest of function and superlative sound quality that only a few modern valve amplifiers are able to achieve.

Tone Controls

The tone controls might seem like an anachronism in this day and age of minimalism, but they can be remarkably effective in bringing to life a less than perfect music collection. We all have music gems in our collection that are sonically challenged. A lot of the 1980s CDs, as well as MP3 files are quite harsh sounding and the digital glare can be quite fatiguing. Reduce the treble slightly and while the harsh CD is not going to suddenly sound like a reference recording, at least it will now be perfectly listenable. Sit back relax, enjoy the music & forgot about the Hi Fi. When you want to bypass the tone controls, just engage the Tone Defeat ON switch.

There are two pairs of outputs, one pair to the amplifier and the second pair for use with a subwoofer. There is also a record monitor output, which is line level.

Clean, elegant construction which should be capable of at least a couple of decades of reliable service.

Item Value
Input Sensitivity / Impedance LINE: 190mV / 50kΩ ,
PHONO (MM): 2mV / 47kΩ,
PHONO (MC-H): 0.3mV / 100Ω,
PHONO (MC-L): 0.08mV / 30Ω
Output Voltage / Impedance 1V RMS / 300Ω, 19V (max.)
Total Harmonic Distortion 0.006% (1kHz), 0.06% (20Hz – 20kHz)
Frequency Response PHONO: 20Hz – 20kHz (+0, -0.5dB),
LINE: 10Hz – 70kHz (+0, -3.0dB)
S/N Ratio LINE: 100dB, PHONO (MM): 68dB,
PHONO (MC-H): 63dB, PHONO (MC-L): 60dB
Input LINE x 4, PHONO x 1
Tape Input / Output 1 set
Lien Output 2 sets
Tone Control Bass Turnover Frequency: 150Hz / 300Hz / 600Hz
Treble Turnover Frequency: 1.5kHz / 3kHz / 6kHz
Low Cut 30Hz (-6dB/oct)
Dimensions (W x H x D) 400 × 170× 307 (mm)
Net Weight 13.5kg
Accessories Remote control (RA-18), Power Cord

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Press Reviews

Listening

stereophile_recom_comp_2015“Fully warmed up, the Classic CL-38u presented music with natural, realistic warmth and color, and fine bass-to-treble balance. Its perspective was neither recessed nor excessively forward, and its spatial presence tended toward the larger end of the scale.

“Equally impressive with large-scale music were the Luxman’s dramatic expressiveness, and its ability to remain unfazed during the highest and densest peaks. The CL-38u’s handling of the many unexpectedly powerful crescendi in Metamorphosen was especially notable: The sound remained free of strain, even as the music was, emotionally, nearly overwhelming.

Conclusions

“…the CL-38u is a distinctly musical product whose sonic strengths happened to nicely mesh with my own priorities. $4,200 for a full function (line plus phono) Japanese made preamplifier of this caliber is not just a good value: It’s exceptional value.”

Art Dudley, Stereophile May 2015
Measurements

“These days, full-fuction preamplifiers such as this one, offering MM and MC phono inputs as well as versatile tone controls are rare – but the measured performance of Luxman’s Classic CL-38u doesn’t appear to be compromised in any way, either by its verssatility or by its exclusive use of tubes.”

John Atkinson (editor), Stereophile May 2015

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