Building Brilliant Systems.

It’s one thing to find a great sounding stereo component but it’s another to build a complete system that makes the most if it.

In the first few months of this year we have brought you a wonderful range of new loudspeakers called Lumina from our favourite Italians – Sonus faber. And now you can also learn about a fantastic family of new network music players from Lumin, based in Hong Kong. Finally we can show you how to combine the two into a brilliant system.

First up, the new Sonus fabers. We’ve published two reviews – one of the smaller and remarkably affordable Lumina I’s which are a continuation of the classic Sonus faber ethos. Yet it’s the floor standing Lumina III which is the real surprise – these are quite unique in the Sonus faber range and break new ground in terms of the style of sound. I’ve found a lot to like with them both – there’s some fresh thinking from Sonus faber and the designs are both aesthetically and sonically appealing on many levels.

Lumin Network players

Lumin do for digital what Sonus faber do for speakers – design and build components that stand above both the mass and specialist audio markets. The reviews for all the Lumin products are stellar. But there’s a world of difference between reading about and actually listening to a new brand. What we have heard is utterly compelling.

It’s not often we’ve been this impressed with new components but Lumin really is next level and opens up a whole new set of possibilities for you.

The whole concept of streaming can take a little bit to get your head around and we’ve intentionally held off from many other components as we were unconvinced by the sound quality, the complication and compromise that we saw. Lumin solves all these issues.

The new Lumin U1 Mini at Totally Wired.

The Lumins are best described as Network Players. That is they play either music you have stored or access music via streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz and Spotify (which will soon be offering a high resolution option). And AirPlay is in the game as well.

A hugely important part of the experience, the free Lumin App is their vision of how to make music browsing and playback intuitive, visual, and tactile. So there are no front panel controls on the Lumins and only a simple display.

What really counts is on the inside – and the sound that comes out. There is a huge amount going on with both the internal workings and the resulting sound and the Lumin site is as good as it gets when it comes to explaining this with comprehensive, easy to understand descriptions and more reviews than any brand I’ve seen – everyone just loves what they hear.

What I can tell you is that Lumin works beautifully with the systems we’re putting together. And is producing a level of sound quality that easily beats anything we’ve been able to do before.

There’s an obvious comparison with NuPrime. But they are quite distinct in what they do and, if anything, are complimentary.

For anyone with a NuPrime DAC, IDA-16 or IDA-8, (or other quality DAC) there’s a Lumin component that’s going to transform your listening experience – the U1 Mini Network Transport (NZ$4000). There’s no obsolescence – the U1 Mini brings you into the world of streaming and the Lumin sound will make your entire system light up.

This is very much the traditional way to build up a high performance system. One piece at a time, carefully chosen. And it often works. Adding the Lumin U1 Mini to your present DAC is a very safe way to get into high performance streaming. It will also take you places you may not have expected. The better the quality of your present DAC, the greater the improvement you’ll experience with the U1 Mini.

Our own experience with the U1 Mini has been revelatory. We’ve documented our findings with many other brands of components and cables over the years and while we often found worthwhile improvements in performance it’s seldom that they are of either the magnitude or consistency that the U1 Mini has delivered.

In simple terms it sounds much better and does so across every type of music we’ve listened to.

What are we actually listening to? As someone with a large existing music collection – vinyl, CD’s and downloads, I’ve often questioned the logic behind streaming services. Lumin has changed this for us.

Tidal and Qobuz solve the quality issue – both offer CD or better quality, and between the two – Tidal being US based, and Qobuz having a more European focus, there is no need to consider either digitising LPs or ripping CDs as almost all titles you could ever want to listen to will be there. Or soon will be.

Spotify have also announced they will soon upgrade the quality of their service. Being a long time Mac user, AirPlay was the first way we used the Lumin. The results from this were the best I’ve heard, but it’s also become obvious that there are some limitations – while it’s excellent to get you up and running and also as a fallback option if there are any network or access issues, the step up in quality with either Tidal or Qobuz is obvious.

Tune In provides the best quality internet radio you’ll ever hear and is part of the Lumin app. It’s free and covers both New Zealand and the world.

We have retained our Nativ Vita touchscreen server as I do have a library of niche and high resolution music on its internal SSD. The Lumin seamlessly accesses everything on it via our network and it’s immediately obvious that anything we play has a lot more going on than when we had the Vita connected directly to the DAC. You can just as easily connect a SSD via USB into the back of the U1 Mini or access anything on your computer via your home network.

Initially I thought the U1 Mini was just the same as the D2 but without an internal DAC section. Same box, similar connections, same price. A classic rookie mistake. The U1 Mini is essentially the best bits of the NZ$11,000 U1 Reference series transport with an internal power supply (the U1 is a two box unit with an external power supply). Which is in turn derived directly from the flagship model S1. Again, read the reviews – there’s a pedigree here that stands above anything else we’ve dealt with before.

So what’s the difference between a network transport like the U1 Mini and a network player – the D2, T2 or X1?. It’s simply all in the DAC – the transport doesn’t have one so has to go into a digital input (the U1 mini puts out USB, Optical Coax, BNC and AES-EBU) but the Network Players have a hierarchy of ever more sophisticated internal DACs, and have both analogue and digital outputs.

These three Lumin models that include formidable DAC sections also have a very high quality volume control system and both fully balanced and more conventional RCA outputs. These are the best options for new systems, especially if you keep things simple and connect directly to a power amplifier (or two).

The Lumin D2 (NZ$4000) does for digital what the Well Tempered Simplex 2 does for analogue – and then some. With the D2 you can build a stunningly simple and high performing system that gives you access to more music to enjoy than you could ever imagine.

The two models above the D2 take you even further. The Lumin X1 at NZ$22,000 including GST is the ultimate. Again, just start digging into the reviews and you’ll get the idea.

The Lumin T2 at NZ$8,000 gives more than a taste of the X1’s performance and build quality. The T2 hits the sweet spot for many of you. Well above entry level and perfect for matching with better quality amplifiers and speakers.

All you need is the Lumin Network player, a power amplifier, a pair of speakers and the few cables to connect them.

Making the most of Lumin.

What better amplifier to make the most of any of the Lumin options than the NuPrime AMG STA?

We have already explored the new AMG models in depth and the feedback from clients has been overwhelmingly positive. Add to this the two reviews by Christiaan Punter at HFA and you have a compelling case for this new amplifier. Here’s his conclusion.

“The AMG-PRA + AMG-STA form a beautiful combo, not only visually, but also in terms of sonic synergy, the preamp’s robust and full sound perfectly complimenting the power amp’s slightly leaner balance. The combined result is a musically always engaging sound that is solid and full-bodied, smooth and refined yet highly detailed and transparent, with perfect pacing, and great dynamics. Honestly, at 3200 euro, I haven’t heard a better amplifier, either integrated or separates.

As great as the combo is, the AMG-STA power amplifier really is the star of the show. On its own, it is capable of performing on a level that is well and truly beyond what might be expected from an amplifier at its price point. To be more precise: if the preamp already performs at a level that belies its price sticker, the power amp steals the show as it has the ability to perform on the level of amplifiers that typically cost multiples of its modest 1.595-Euro price. I am not kidding!

The NuPrime AMG STA power amplifier at Totally Wired.

Combine the AMG-STA with a great volume-controlled DAC and you’ll have a nearly unbeatable system. Between single and dual amps, if ever there was a no-brainer decision, this is it. The pair simply raises the performance in each and every audiophile parameter, without harming the emotional involvement.

I’ve highlighted the key sentence for you. The Lumin’s are great volume controlled DACs but there are even more reasons to select the AMG STA.

The Lumin network players are all full balanced designs and it’s strongly recommended you use this connection with them. The STA has it.

The AMG STA also has a far higher input impedance that almost all other power amplifiers – 1M(illion) Ohms, matched only by their flagship Evolution One Mono power amps – this is optimal for the Lumins.

The sound of bridged mono AMG STAs is better in every way than a single unit. As a combination with any to the Lumin models you’ll gain performance that’s directly comparable to insanely expensive systems.

The expressive nature of the Sonus faber speakers allow the Lumin/NuPrime combination to really shine. From the new Lumina I bookshelf and III floor standing speakers, through the Sonetto, Olympica Nova and Heritage ranges we’ve put together some magnificent systems that reflect the tastes and individuality of their owners.

Connections

The final link in this story are the KLEI cables. As a client recently wrote to us “Thanks again for sending up the KLEI cable. I tried my best to convince myself it was no better than my existing Wireworld Eclipse RCA cable but failed miserably. This KLEI is incredible. Seems to have all the space, depth and soundstage of a good Nordost cable while keeping the rich, musical tone and flow of Wireworld. They are genuinely astonishing. I think if more people knew about KLEI products and how they sound, they’d be banging down your door. I’d never heard of KLEI until I came across your website but they beat every other cable I’ve heard, at home or in shops, in my mere mortal price range at least.” Karel.

In the system options that we have outlined to you, there are 3 connections that will take the performance to the next level – the interconnect between the Lumin and NuPrime, speaker cables to your speakers and last but definitely not least, the mains cables.

How good a sound do you want? Select the KLEI cables to suit.

That said, because all the actual components involved have significant warm up periods – a good 300 hours at least you may wish to start with entry level cables. It also takes a while to adjust to a new level of sound quality, deal with the operational learning curve of the Lumin App and get speaker positioning right. Over this time, the standard power cables provided with the Lumin and NuPrime will be fine. And our entry level Kimber cables rank highly in anyone’s estimation.

But when you are ready, the KLEI options will have the same transformative effect of any of the component choices. The AC mains cables are where you’d get the most immediate and cost effective performance gains and you have four choices from around $600. We’re more than happy for you to try any of these out for your self before making a commitment.

The KLEI interconnects – both analogue for the network players and digital for the U1 Mini are the next port of call. The KLEI QFlow7 balanced analogue interconnect is about as good as it gets in this setting. Then consider the speaker cables.

Hearing for yourself.

We presently have two full Lumin based systems here are ready for you to listen to. If you are one of our out of town clients we’re happy to organise a home trial – this effectively how we came to really appreciate Lumin, the NuPrime AMGs and KLEI cables ourselves. Now we can share the experience with you.

Song for a New Day

Heading into 2021 we’re looking for more of those moments. We have the means towards this particular end. First up are two components that have crystallised much of my thinking about how we listen to music and the qualities that are important when it comes to really enjoying what we hear.

Vifa Copenhagen music speaker @totallywirednz

Christmas at home

Loudspeaker specials
Tivoli Audio
Vifa bluetooth-wifi speakers
Analogue therapy
Online shopping

Home. Our safe place, our place of sanctity, family HQ, escape. Whatever home means to you, home is where we revive our spirits, have a life that is our own, a place from which we look out to the world. Our daily routines help keep us stable and enjoying each day.

There have been ups and downs to this year, yet here in Aotearoa our ‘high social trust has resulted in a society essentially free of the virus.’ Happily, many have rediscovered home life and it is nice to see that music listening is part of that. Our own habits have changed and we’ve made the most of new technologies like streaming, podcasts and bluetooth, along with our ongoing love of analogue. Such things have played a big part in our coping with the new situation that the world found itself in. Studies have shown the benefits of listening to music. For everyone both music and being connected aid our sense of well-being. We certainly found this ourselves.

There was some initial anxiety in our household as due to our rural living, being reliant on mobile data and hotspots for internet connection some adjusting was required to handle the increased data use. Work-wise that was achieved and then, for entertainment came the challenge of being able to stream to our out-dated but much loved Loewe television. We mostly still use our Cambridge blu-ray player but in July came Idiot Prayer – Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace and the International Film Festival that we wanted to stream. John’s tenacity at finding solutions got us there so we were able to to enjoy these visually while connecting to our NuPrime amplifiers and Sonus faber Sonetto speakers for sumptuous sound. Our favourite of the Film Festival was the quirky Dinner in America – a feel good film with a ‘kickass’ soundtrack.

We hope that you too managed to find ways of enjoying your time at home. It is a pleasure for us to help you in these endeavours so with the festive season and summertime on the horizon we have a few thoughts to share…

First up for the festive season some loudspeaker Specials –

MONITOR AUDIO SPEAKER SPECIALS

There’s only one downside to running a home show room – you very quickly run out of floorspace. Even a representative range of loudspeakers covers a lot of models between our two core brands – Monitor Audio and Sonus faber. So at some stage we do have to send some of our favourites to new homes and this is as good a time as any to do it. Plus we have a NuForce multi-channell amplifier that’s been traded in too. Perfect timing as a real Christmas treat for you!

Tivoli Audio celebrates 20th anniversary 💝

In the year 2000 the original Tivoli Model One was taken into hearts and homes the world over. Today it remains unrivaled as the table radio for broadcast listening. The 2020 versions have been re-engineered so that the woodwork has an even better finish, and the electronics have been improved to give greater precision to the tuning as well as taking the sonic performance even further. These up-dated models also have better power supplies that minimise interference and come in biodegradable, environmentally friendly packaging.

To celebrate their 20 anniversary Tivoli Audio has produced a limited-edition Model One BT in a high gloss lacquer coated walnut finish. Commemorating this special occasion atop the unit reads 20th Anniversary in mother-of-pearl inlay. The knobs and tuning dial have been crafted out of wood and coated in high gloss lacquer to match the radio’s cabinet. There will be only 1600 worldwide and we have some coming. A special gift or a collector’s item these are $549 and orders can be taken now.

  • Tivoli Audio 20th anniversary limited edition Model One radio @totallywired.nz

Also coming through are up-dated Model Threes ( the analogue clock radio); generation 2 of the Model One Digital, and a new look for the portable PAL bluetooth radios. A current favourite of both ourselves and our customers is the Music System Home. It encapsulates a world of ways of accessing audio. Tivoli Audio have you at heart with a terrific range to choose from.

Vifa la Christmas! 🎄

Danish company Vifa are long-known and respected in the Hifi world for loudspeaker drivers. After 80 years in the business they changed tack and began producing a range of single music units – bluetooth/wifi speakers including portable speakers of varied sizes and multi-room speakers.

Much of the best in home audio are also ‘best kept secrets’. Not intentionally but the specialist manufacturers are not often on the radar of magazine reviews etc. Mass market players play spurious commercial games that are particularly intense in the lucrative fields of headphones and bluetooth speakers. Like Tivoli Audio, Vifa use natural materials in classic designs, utilising best quality parts and build practices along with the kinds of technology today’s users are looking for. Whenever we play a Vifa we are enamoured with their sound. A sound that is light-years ahead of many of the ‘big names.’ Vifa speakers are 21st century multi purpose players designed for humans. Carolijn describes Vifa as ’sound objects with tangible appeal’. Here is her review.

A new addition to our personal living is the cute ‘Helsinki ‘ which we use in the bedroom for streaming radio and podcasts. The larger ‘Copenhagen’ is our go-to for taking to parties where music is needed. It can fill a big room with clarity. The little ‘Reykjavik’ is proving to be popular as a gift as is the big ‘Stockholm’ for households as the main hifi system. Something in the Vifa range could be just what you’re looking for.

Analogue therapy 🥰

Wax Engine turntable by Consonance @totallywirednz

We’ve noticed that the holiday season is when many of you cast your eye over your turntable system looking to see how it could have new life breathed into it. We know how you love your analogue system as we love ours so we always keep in touch with some of the best analogue companies passing what we learn onto you. On our analogue page you can find information on turntables, phono stages and cartridges. Often at year end it’s time for a new styli or cartridge, or perhaps you would like to treat yourself to an upgrade in the system. If you’re not sure just ask John. Few in the industry has his level of expertise so he is sure to suggest what is best for your particular system.

POLi secure internet banking @totallywired.nz
Buy online @totallywirednz
shop here

Our online shop makes purchasing easy for you. You’ll find Tivoli radios, Vifa bluetooth sound systems and some of the more popular home audio components and accessories – wherever you see our online shop logo on a product page this option is available. At our online shop you can now use POLi secure bank transfer payments. Pyewacket Cat loves helping with packing and gift wrapping 🙂
Any of our products can also be ordered by email or phone.

Summertime 2019

Welcome to the new year. In between some great beach walks (that’s the mouth of Blueskin Bay on a beautiful Christmas day in the pic above), we’ve been busy with exciting components and systems that are going to make this coming year so much more enjoyable for you…