This is a superb statement of intent from a classic Japanese name, clearly acknowledging that vinyl is well and truly back
to stay.

The PD-171 most certainly wears a retro look but incorporates some fine technology. The deck is belt-driven and the high-torque synchronous AC motor derives its power from a digitally-controlled oscillator, which feeds its output signal into dual DACs and amplifier circuits. As a result, 33.3 and 45rpm are selected by a rotary switch at the front of the player and both speeds can be varied by independent controls.

Drive is transferred by a flat belt to the periphery of the 5kg aluminium platter and this is topped by one of thickest rubber mats we have seen – although its sonic performance turned out to be somewhat mixed.

The deck comes supplied with arm and Luxman appears to have opted for a model from one of its countrymen. The fitted item bears more than a passing resemblance to the Jelco SA-250 but is finished in silver with a magnesium headshell.

The arm has an effective length of 229mm and suits cartridges ranging from 4-12g in weight, or from 12-32g when using its optional heavier counterweight. The output lead for the arm connects via a standard 5-pin socket, so experimenting with different cables is possible should the user want this.

Fit and finish of the deck is nothing short of stunning and beautiful design touches abound. It comes complete with a removable stylus illumination lamp that casts a delightful soft glow across the record when in use. A further lamp illuminates strobe markings on the underside of the platter.

Fine sense of clarity

It seemed only fitting to start with some music from the era to which the PD-171 could well belong, so we cued up The League Unlimited Orchestra’s Love And Dancing [Virgin] and were very pleased to hear that the Luxman can most certainly channel a true 1980s vibe when required. The deck has a pleasing sense of impact and fluidity, making the percussion skip along with intent while capturing the essence of the analogue synthesisers playing on the track.

The performance was also imbued with a very fine sense of clarity, as the PD-171 showed itself to have a very clean, clear and tight top end with superb levels of detail allied to an impressive crispness.

We were thoroughly enjoying the deck’s performance but felt that something was a little lacking. We replaced the mat with an Achromat and cued up Steve Earle’s Copperhead Road LP [MCA]. The Luxman now had a better feeling of authority and much greater detail to its low end.

Kari Bremnes’ ‘A Lover In Berlin’ from her Norwegian Mood album [Kirkelig Kulturverksted] soared from our loudspeakers, underpinned by a taut and fulsome acoustic bass with a properly defined note structure. Ms Bremnes’ voice was fabulous, larger than life and rock-solid in the centre of the soundstage. The percussive backing effects were also sharply focused but never intruded on the main action as the Luxman was more than able to render this LPs’ capacious sense of depth.

Given that the Luxman had proven itself to be such a champion in excavating filigree detail, we decided a challenge was in order and played a Bach concerto for two harpsichords, with the Sarre CO/Karl Ristenpart [Nonesuch]. The two harpsichords providing the main structure of the Allegro finale were as distinct as we have ever heard them, and the supporting orchestra was positioned at just the right distance behind them: a perfect backdrop but never intrusive.

Verdict

The Luxman PD-171’s stylish if retro exterior conceals a design that is absolutely contemporary. With stunning engineering and intelligent digital control electronics the PD-171 is a delight to use. It offers a captivating musical performance.

Originally published in the 2014 Yearbook